WSU plant scientist Dr. Amit Dhingra, associate professor and scientist, and members of his research team in the Department of Horticulture founded Phytelligence in 2012, the first plant based biotechnology startup at WSU. They developed a tree growing method that is 3 times faster, conserves water and reduces the need for plant pesticides or herbicides – hailed “smarter plants”.
Recently, Phytelligence received media attention with their first large sale delivery of 1000 raspberry plants to a company in the Northwest, with a plan to deliver another 50,000 this August.
All of the ideas for the “smarter plants” came from the research work conducted in Dinghra’s plant genomics lab using genetic analyses and soil-less tissue culture. A proprietary plant multiplication method can produce 250,000 plants in one year from a single plant in 5 week intervals. The more traditional method of propagation can take 5 to 7 years to produce what Phytelligence can accomplish in 2 years. This method is resource-efficient and has several steps that produce more robust plants with significantly lower mortality rates, resulting in greater economic success for a fruit grower. DNA testing prior to shipment also guarantees the authenticity of the fruit tree or plant species being supplied to growers.
WSU’s Office of Commercialization has played a very active role in Phytelligence’s success. They helped protect the technology, made connections with experts to assist in drafting a business plan, found potential investors (70% of the start-up funding came from growers and nurseries), and gave the new company exposure at technology industry events.
Dr. Dinghra was featured last month in a TEDxWSU 2014 event on the fruit of the future. http://genomics.wsu.edu/news/intelli-gen-design-fruit-of-the-future/.